Avenue of Mysteries
by John Irving
2015 / 480 pages
read by Armando Duran 20h 50m
CHAPTER 7 – Two Virgins
Juan Diago is back in his hotel room – in the dim/dark? – laying awake – worried about Viagra and beta-blockers. Mixed up. Sleeps with an erection. Dreams very realistically – back to Rivera and the bloody Juan Diego meeting Pepe and Edward at the temple.
Crowds gather and Edward understands very little Spanish and Lupe is also speaking her garbled tongue. They argue about the Virgin Mary and Guadalupe. Two women in mourning appear – who are they mourning – (are these two Miriam and Dorothy?) – Esperanza arrives and screams in Lupe’s language at the feet of the Virgin Mary where Juan Diego is lying with his crushed foot.
The Virgin Mary looks disapprovingly at Esperanza -(why? how?) Esperanza attacks Rivera. Edward speaks perfect Spanish in telling her to pray. Lupe tells Juan Diego that Edward is the miracle man – he’s Juan Diego’s miracle man. (Pepe: “‘He’s from Iowa’ – said as though it were Rome.”)
Juan Diego speaks English:
You Catholics,… You Catholics stole our virgin … Guadalupe was ours, and you took her – you used her, you made her merely an acolyte to the Virgin Mary.”
This level of English impresses Edward as it does Pepe – the two women mourners are gone – because Juan Diego is not dying?
As they get everyone in the truck Pepe’s co-fathers show up and the next couple pages are hilarious as Pepe tries to tell them about Señor Eduardo.
But Pepe follows the truck in his VW bug he watches Edward and sees “a man who looked like he belonged… a man with a purpose.”
Juan Diego feels like that in his dreams – and then the phone rings. It’s Dorothy wondering about Miriam.
*** languages, Virgin Mary, memories and dreams, mysteries, miracles, (and who are the mourners – are they virgins?) Crushed foot and blood – blood on truck and foot –
CHAPTER 8 – Two Condoms –
Dorothy is in Juan Diego’s bed examining his Viagra enhanced penis. Juan Diego is telling her about the Cortez – but it’s like they’re talking in two languages. lol The sex is graphic.
But the novelist struggled ahead with the story of Juan Diego meeting the Virgin of Guadalupe in the desert- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tepeyac
But Dorothy apparently knows the story and is very good in bed – brings her own condoms. But they agree that the eyes of the Virgin on the robe in the story “had a creepy light in her eyes.” She was dark skinned and Indian not Spanish – and Aztec virgin. Her eyes looked Lupe’s and like Dorothy was looking at Juan Diego – there was an unknown language coming from the radio –
The phone rings – it’s Miriam who wants to talk to Dorothy “when she’s herself.” – Like who else would she be? – And she’s got a way of making condoms appear and disappear. So where is it now? Apparently the women are going to Manila with Juan Diego – at least Miriam is. He thinks he needs another beta-blocker or two. He wants to find two condoms finds one – can’t find wrappers.
Now he is having blank spaces in his memory and dreams. The cap on his beta-blockers was off – how many had he taken – when? –
He cuts himself on the curtain rod and there seems to be blood all over the place. There is blood on the sheets – Miriam appears and sees the blood – and it’s funny again as Juan Diego wonders how many beta-blockers he took.
Miriam gets Juan Diego’s itinerary so they (?) can be there, too. Dorothy writes Juan Diego a love letter. They leave the room with the women carrying the luggage and Juan Diego’s limp almost gone.
In the airport for the flight to Manila Miriam and Dorothy disappear at the metal detection device. And he didn’t know where Miriam and Dorothy were – The letter he got from her had a lipstick print on it – same color as her toenails and also in the envelope were the condom wrappers – they had made it through the metal detectors. ?
*** same – memories and dreams – languages, blood and maybe death – ? – who are those women?
More as needed –
Chapter 10: Clothing is mentioned and with reason – Esperanza dresses like a child with lots of cleavage – Edward wears brightly colored shirts for a reason – and those two are different in extremes. Hippie thinks he’s a cowboy.
Also – it’s about a quest – a mission of sorts – to Manila with a whole variety of transportation, limos and trains and airplanes, – a taxi? There’s also a truck and several cars, jeepney – even a burro. This book is about moving – “even Diego’s dreams transport him.” (paraphrased)
And then there’s the circus where Pepe and Bonshaw and Doctor Vargas (an atheist) take Juan Diego and Lupe. But innocent young girls die in performances – they pass for now.
Dogs are a huge part of the story – lots of dogs – Rivera’s dog in the dump, Lupe’s puppy, the roof-dogs, other dogs in the dump, the dog which bit Edward, the dogs in Manila – probably more.
Some of the Mexico scenes are too long – so are some of the travel scenes – I’m not sure why they’re that long except Irving is being self-indulgent – he just likes writing it out and can’t bring himself to edit better. ??? Some are there for humor I think – the Kindergarteners with the hippie-Jesus had me laughing out loud. But then later the scene turned into a very meaningful exchange between Hippie and Juan Diego.
Chapter 14 – Coatlicue is the mother-god of Lupe and Juan Diego – the traditional mother god of the area.
Juan Diego gets a hotel room and there is a huge aquarium in it. – He messes up.
** Chapter 15 –
The main theme of the languages and the misunderstandings/mistranslations is interesting and it’s presented in so many ways – people are different and each is special. We’ve got people talking past each other all the way through – faith vs religion, history vs sex, real mothers and spiritual mothers, real fathers and spiritual fathers – or different kinds of mothers and fathers anyway – and an absent father. And there’s the the theme of authors vs readers, too – interesting. The interplay of dreams and memories with reality is done very well. There’s a whole lot of stuff in there and it repeats and repeats but I’m totally enjoying the structure. Believing and not believing – mysteries and miracles.
From Chapter 15 (Kindle location 3377)
What is so appealing about celibacy? Why do priests care about being celibate? Aren’t priests always telling us what to do and think— I mean sexually?” Juan Diego asked. “Well, how can they have any authority on sexual matters if they don’t ever have sex?”
But Juan Diego insists that he and Lupe are Zapotecs, not Catholics and that their Mary was usurped by the Catholic Church – she is not the Virgin Mary.
Dreams and their relationship to what is going on in Juan Diego’s 54-year old world:
Dreams do this: like the Roman Catholic Church, dreams co-opt things; dreams appropriate things that are not truly their own.”
Esperanza dies in a struggle with the big Virgin Mary which she was dusting from a ladder – she falls off the ladder – did she die of fright? – The white puppy also dies. the kids have her cremated in accordance with their own ideas of religion – and the Hippie goes with her – he died from being beaten to death. Lupe cares about their souls.
CHAPTER 18 – King of Beasts –
Juan Diego is mistaken for dead when they arrive in Manila- Clark French, an old student meets him – Clark is Catholic but liberal – married to Josefa Quinatna – a doctor. They are to go to a family reunion at a resort the next day. There will be one uninvited guest- Miriam. They talk women’s issues vs the church and adoptions
Then Juan Diego falls asleep in the car – dreams of Flor, a transvestite prostitute is driving them to the circus and meeting some transvestites and dwarfs and the lion tamer (Ignacio) and his wife (Soledad), some girl acrobats foreshadowing – Edward is along – steps in elephant dung.
CHAPTER 17 – New Year’s Eve at the Encantador
beta-blockers/Viagra – children around at the resort – Juan Diego’s room is across a balcony from the mystery woman. – he considers which pills to take. Clark and Juan Diego discuss church political policy – pedophilia – confesses his sister died to a young girl. A lady “just appears” along with a gecko – Mariam spears the gecko with a fork. Miriam sits by Juan Diego
CHAPTER 18 – Lust Has a Way
Mix of memory and dinner party – Lupe was killed by a lion. Miriam combs out the little girl’s hair. Pedro is concerned about the geckos – does Miriam “know everything that’s going to happen?” Geckos fall from ceiling. The two leave the party early.
CHAPTER 19 – Boy Wonder
Lupe knows lion tamer wants to sleep with all the acrobats and his wife knows it. The kids are going to sleep in the dog tent with the old dog trainer. Edward gets together with Flor the transvestite and Juan Diego is going to try skywalking and Lupe is is going to be hired as a fortune teller attracted to the lion – knows what he’s thinking. and Juan Diego will leave with
CHAPTER 20 –
Flor with Eduardo (the homosexual now) to Iowa, swimming, she and Eduardo were like parents to Juan Diego, – the group takes Esperanza’s ashes to Mexico City to the shrine for Guadalupe and the ** Avenue of Mysteries** . Dinner party at Vargas’ house, memories now mingling more freely – gets confusing. Lupe is infatuated with Lion, Juan Diego afraid of Doloros the acrobat. Discussion of Virgin Mary’s nose (statue) swords.
“Some unexplainable things are real.”
CHAPTER 21 – Ghosts vs god – one does not equate with the other – Carmen dies of a broken neck and very abruptly and Miriam leaves the resort. Succubi – Juan Diego afraid? Clark disapproves of swimming – IN the circus it’s about the acrobats – transitions less smooth – just jumpy. Flor and pony – bad stuff -sea urchins etc. Juan Diego never marries with good reason –
Juan Diego is living in the past. Clark is looking to the future.
CHAPTER 22 – in Mexico with circus – weirdness. JD is getting the memories he missed while on the BBs. Then back to Juan Diego’s novel writing – whose escape is it and the role of the Church?
** NOW ** the most moving of the book so far – I’ve come to care about certain characters and in Juan Diego’s memories they are dying – he’s moved to Iowa but the others are gone. New places for Pepe then death.
CHAPTER 23 – JD talking in sleep on plane about history – sad – he thinks he’s carrying ashes of his mother, hippie and a dog and remembering the Circus in Mexico and bringing ashes. Lupe, Juan Diego, Pepe, Edward, and others all go to Mexico City for the dispersal of ashes.
Back to contemporary times – Dorothy writes to JD about a Leslie whom JD knew in Iowa – so did Clark – now she knows Josefa.
CHAPTER 25 – it starts to sound like an epilogue – things happen fast, told in a kind of passive past perfect tense – Edwuardo and Flo move to Iowa, get AIDS and die. Juan Diego is with them as their son. Is teased. Rivera dies of a broken heart – he was the kids’ father.
CHAPTER 28 –
Lupe dies – bitten by Homre the tiger. Ignacio shot Homre. Dolores goes to Guadalajara and dies from an abortion.
Eduardo and Flor adopt Juan Diego.
So much of this is told as foreshadowing that when it happens it’s like repetition. Adding to this Lupe is a fortune teller so what she says often comes to pass (she’s not perfect, though).
This can be annoying if you don’t know how the narrative is constructed. Juan Diego has already lived the inside story – he knows what’s coming even when he’s dreaming it. The way it sounds in repetition is like Lupe knows the future.
It’s repetitious for a reason and for the effect of foreshadowing and fortune telling and already lived events. Whether that works or not is up to the reader – it can come off as, simple unedited repetitiveness. Also, the back and forth of present future is faster at the end and the past often has its own past and future events to go refer to – not chronological at all now – that’s gone. And Juan Diego is living in his past far more vividly than in his present.
And Ignacio is attacked by the lionesses – as foretold by Lupe and the narrator – both. Foreshadowing is so frequent here the instances are almost like throw-away lines. Imagine keeping your verbs straight! lol And this book has been translated into several languages – yikes.
And every Maravilla (circus) character has a follow-up ending – it’s very sad, nostalgic feeling. The orphanage in Oaxaca is dissolved – is this happening or is it a foreshadowing and more will be told later? Will Juan Diego remember it from his past? Hmmmmm … one repetition for each telling of a thing – future, present, past – was this deliberate? (of course). However it is disconcerting to have the last days of Paco and Billy reported in one chapter and then have them present at the scattering of Lupe’s ashes in the next.
CHAPTER 29 – ONE SINGLE JOURNEY
And back to Juan Diego in the present time – with Dorothy and Miriam – and their strange abilities. Ghosts appear and Juan Diego sees the photo from Chapter 6. Juan Diego thinks about his book and the idea of “One Single Journey.”
Chapter 30 – THE SPRINKLING
The actual scattering of Lupe’s possessions at the feet of Monster Mary who sheds tears – Eduardo confesses his love for Flo and desire to take Juan Diego to Iowa. Vargas admits to having his own ghosts. It’s a miracle? Not so fast say Alfonso and Octavio. And not this miracle says Vargas. Church and science don’t want miracles – only the people do – like Rivera.
Who are Miriam and Dorothy asks Leslie – Juan Diego tires of them and they apparently disappear. The Black Nazarene Procession in Manila –
CHAPTER 32 – Not Manila Bay
Who wrote Shakespeare – the Bard of course – but Clark and Juan Diego argue about it as evidence of autobiography vs imagination – and they use James Shapiro as the text. (Shapiro says of course Shakespeare wrote it.) Clark and Juan Diego visit the Cemetery as the hippie requested and then they go to a chapel where 2 women, Dorothy and Miriam, are waiting as mourners. Juan Diego has a heart attack and although they get him to the hospital he falls into thinking he’s becoming a skywalker and then he dies.